The serious nature of air pollution did not truly hit me until a family wedding in Austin, Texas in the late 90’s. That year the pollution was so severe that older family members were warned by their doctors not to attend. As a kid from the suburbs, I didn’t have to deal with the reality of “bad air” that millions of people in the urban cores breath day in, day out. As a person of faith, I began to awaken to the manifest injustice of suburban commuters contributing more than their fair share to pollution, from the tailpipe and the power plant. What had been a mere academic awareness suddenly turned visceral.
Cities and states have had a mixed track record, at best, in dealing with air quality - ultimately it is a matter of national concern. Thankfully Congress and the federal government have had the wisdom to act. The Clean Air Act has been an essential tool to help restore our air. Its success is not complete of course, but it is has moved the needle(PDF) in reducing air-born mercury, arsenic, lead, nitrous oxide, and other harmful pollutants.
Today we recognize, through the consensus of the vast majority of the world’s scientists who study the Earth’s climate, that we must have strong action to combat a whole class of pollutants that are not being addressed by the existing measures under the Clean Air Act: so-called greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The E.P.A.’s Clean Power Plan has been developed as a tool that provides the states with the leeway to act within broad requirements that will significantly reduce the levels of these man-made pollutants - which are swiftly disrupting our established climate patterns, resulting in extreme droughts, floods, heat waves, and sea level rise.
This plan is audacious, and undoubtedly there is room for further improvement as it moves into action. Please allow it to continue moving forward through a process of deliberate action and refinement. It will lead to cleaner air for every American, will aid in the transition to a more sustainable industrial base to our economy, and will spur real job creation. Congress can help by supporting continued rural development - for example, funding high speed Internet connections - in those regions that are sadly being hit hardest by the necessary transition from coal to cleaner fuels.
Letter to EPA Administrator Pruitt
Posted with : Social Discourse, Climate Change